What matters more? The singing or the preparation to sing? On this show, it seems like the latter is king. What is ostensibly America’s biggest singing competition has transformed this season into America’s Biggest Prep for a Singing Competition. Between the 2-minute coaching session with Jimmy Iovine and whatever half-awake superstar he has manning the director’s chair next to him and now Tommy Hilfiger primping the contestants for no apparent reason, this show has dedicated far more energy to the warm up than it does the act.

It gets a little frustrating for a couple of reasons. One: It shows that each episode clearly does not need to be two hours. Two: If each episode is going to be two hours, can’t we see more of the contestants singing? Give them maybe more than 2 minutes on each song? And why are we spoiling part of the performance with the mentoring session?

I know they’re trying to get us to know the contestants better, but this isn’t going to do it. Instead it’s just these oddly placed mentors mugging for not a lot of payoff.

Whatever, let’s get to the actual performances…

DeAndre Brackensick sang “Only the Good Die Young”

Steven Said: First I thought it was a little too happy, but isn’t that what the world needs now?

J-Lo Said: It was a great way to start the show.

Randy Said: I wasn’t jumping up and down because it didn’t show me anything special, but it was okay.

The Verdict:

Here we go. Tommy Hilfiger’s first work of fashion art. And he goes with a bizarre white and black leather jacket that seems like it should be worn by the last-place football team in a bad 50s sports movie? Strike one, Tommy. Strike one.

The rest of the strikes here go to DeAndre for his half-sung, half-asleep get-through of a performance that completely sucked the energy out of one Billy Joel’s most vital songs. I’m not even sure he knew he was onstage at the time as he sang with the fervor of somebody speaking a takeout order into a rotary phone. No verve, no flavor, just a slow dreary hum a vocal that mercifully came to an end before the audience all lapsed into a coma.

Grade: D-

Prediction: Kind of boring in the lead-off spot for somebody who has had trouble with voters already. I think he’s in some trouble.

Erika Van Pelt sang “New York State of Mind”

Steven Said: You could have put more character into that, but that’s for later.

J-Lo Said: I’d love to see you let loose more.

Randy Said: I loved that and I loved the vocals.

The Verdict:

Holy sweet merciful crap. This is Tommy’s advice? Turn yourself into Betty Boop except make your hair look less realistic? This is an epic fashion collapse out of the gate if I’ve ever seen one.

Erika’s vocal, though, was mostly solid on this one. She connected with the melody right away and injected some sweet smoky jazz that does not exist on this record. By the time she hit the bridge, she was right in form, letting her voice run wild over a subdued arrangement that added a touch of elegance to the proceedings. Altogether, a very solid performance that showed the type of artist Erika is capable of being – Haley Reinhart without all those annoying qualities.

Grade: B+

Prediction: She was in danger last week, and didn’t quite get the raves to cut through the whole lineup, so she could be in some trouble again.

Joshua Ledet sang “She’s Got a Way”

Steven Said: You made a song I didn’t know come to life.

J-Lo Said: I just needed to feel like you were more connected to the lyrics and what you were saying.

Randy Said: You can always turn it on. Make it your own.

The Verdict:

Last year I wrote about good Jacob and bad Jacob. I said this year that Joshua is the much better version of Jacob. Well, now I’m starting to think that like Jacob, Joshua is capable of finding his own vocal Mr. Hyde, and we saw it right here. He was flat throughout most of the song and struggled to the extreme with the opening - he seemed incredibly unsure of himself through the opening portion of this song, like he wasn’t comfortable with any part of singing this song.

Yes, he redeemed himself at the end when he took the song to church and found a bit of gospel soar inside it, but that was really just a brilliant escape from a diabolical trap he set for himself with the beginning and middle of the song.

Grade: C+

Prediction: Not his best, but he’s got enough residual stuff going on to get through.

Skylar Laine sang “Shameless”

Steven Said: A little slow in the beginning, but when you hit a chorus, you do it with conviction.

J-Lo Said: You just eat it up.

Randy Said: Pitchy in the intro but you found your comfort zone.

The Verdict:

This performance was so boring it seemed like Skylar was bored by it. Seriously, there were parts where she just kind of seemed to be saying, “Okay, I’ll walk down this step and spit this lyric out, whatever.”

Now I can understand that a country girl like her has no business singing Billy Joel (though why she wouldn’t choose ‘Billy the Kid’ is beyond me) but she could have at least put some gusto into this. She just kind of vacillated between bored-sounding singing and screaming. It was like somebody recreating a performance rather than an actual performance. So little energy and so little fun.

Grade: D

Prediction: The country girl should sail through.